Mar 20, 2011

Myths and Facts About Early Childhood Education & Quality Rating Systems (QRSs)

1.       Myth:  50% of Minnesota children enter school not ready to learn.

FACTS:  The studies done by the Department of Education show that only 3-10% of children are not showing the outcome being measured at all.  The rest are proficient or in process.  The Department also said that purpose of the kindergarten readiness scores are to be a snapshot in time and should not be used as composite ready or not ready score and that doing so can have negative consequences. The assessment also tests the arts and social, emotional issue, which are subjective and not assessed in K-12 students.  (See Quotes and References Regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for details).

“Spending money on advertising that attempts to scare the public and brand children as failures before the age of 5 does a disservice to families and to the good work of those in the field of school readiness.” – Commissioner Alice Seagren, Pioneer Press, February 5, 2006, emphasis added

2.       Myth:  Quality rating systems like Parent Aware in Minnesota provide accountability and improve childcare program quality and childhood outcomes like closing the achievement gap.

FACT:  Evaluations of Parent Aware in Minnesota, other QRSs and national research all admit that QRSs do none of these things (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details and more quotes):

“The design does not permit us to determine if Parent Aware causes outcomes for programs, parents, or children. We can look at patterns of associations, but causation cannot be determined.” (Parent Aware Third Year Review, MELF, November 2010, PowerPoint, p. 9, emphasis added)

3.       Myth:  QRSs like Parent Aware are popular with providers and parents and are easily and fairly implemented.

FACTS: According to the Parent Aware third year evaluation, only 14% of the eligible programs in the pilot project participated.  It was skewed heavily toward large center providers making small family programs have to compete against large corporate centers.  Two thirds of the programs received the highest 4 star rating automatically, a free pass.  Providers complained that the rules of the system shifted.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details).  This automatic 4-star rating is especially problematic for Head Start Programs, which have been found to be both ineffective in general, harmful to the math skills of three year olds and fraudulent in national and federal government evaluations.  During the third year evaluation of the Parent Aware pilot project, the number of parents with children in Parent Aware rated programs who had even heard of Parent Aware had increased only from 20% to 25%.

4.       Myth:  Parent Aware is voluntary for providers and not an expansion of government.

FACTS: Given the terrible economy, providers will be pressured to accept all of the hoops and mandates required in Parent Aware to get funding and referrals to stay competitive in the marketplace.  It will be voluntary just as Minnesota accepting the common core national standards was voluntary to receive a Race to the Top grant or passing a mandatory seatbelt law was voluntary for federal transportation funding.  Parent Aware requires state approved curriculum and assessments and sets up government controlled regions that correspond to the governor’s workforce development regions. This is an enormous expansion of government.

5.       Myth:  Early childhood programs have a high return on investment and help to close the achievement gap.

FACTS: If early childhood programs provided the 700-1800% returns that proponents claimed, every venture capitalist in the nation would be flocking to invest in them, instead of them continuing to be heavily subsidized by government and bringing us this increasing effort for government to control them.  In addition, whatever gains these programs produce in kindergarten readiness, however nebulously that is defined; there is no evidence that they produce long-term gains in academic achievement.  In fact, there is significant evidence that they are associated with significant academic and emotional harm. (See Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs and Preschool Actually Harms Reading Achievement for more details).

Mar 20, 2011

Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs


“Institutionalized messages surrounding ECE claim that it has the potential to promote children’s life-long success, especially among low-income children. I examine the legitimacy of these claims by reviewing empirical evidence that bears on them and find that most are based on results of a small set of impressive but outdated studies. More recent literature reveals positive, short-term effects of ECE programs on children’s development that weaken over time.”  – Lowenstein, Journal of Educational Policy, January 2011 – Emphasis added

“As with the 4-year-old cohort, there was no strong evidence of impacts on children’s language, literacy, or math measures at the end of kindergarten or at the end of 1st grade.” (Head Start Impact Study, Executive Summary, January 15, 2010, p. 21)

“…the achievement impact of preschool appears to diminish during the first four years of school…preschool alone may have limited use as a long-term strategy for improving the achievement gap…”  – Rumberger, et. al, UCSB, 1/06, pp. 79-80

Using data from the (ELCS), researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior. While the positive academic impacts mostly fade away by the spring of the first grade, the negative effects persist into the later grades.  (Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel, “Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?” National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2004)

Also using the ECLS data, Lisa Hickman at Ohio University, compared children in center care with children who were taught at home. She found that center care children had higher math and reading skills and poorer social skills prior to kindergarten entry. In first grade, however, preschool participants’ cognitive advantage disappeared and their social skills deteriorated.  (Lisa N. Hickman, “Who Should Care for Our Children? The Effects of Home Versus Center Care on Child Cognition and Social Adjustment,” Journal of Family Issues 27 (May 2006: 652-684)

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Mar 19, 2011

Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems


“The design does not permit us to determine if Parent Aware causes outcomes for programs, parents, or children. We can look at patterns of associations, but causation cannot be determined.” (Parent Aware Third Year Review, MELF, November 2010, PowerPoint, p. 9)

“Program ratings are not evenly distributed across the 4 star levels, and sample sizes are small. This limits the conclusions that can be drawn about the Rating Tool.” (Ibid)

“No definitive patterns of linkages between rating categories, program characteristics or proxy scores developed from director and teacher surveys, and child outcomes were identified.” – (MELF Yr. 3 Report, 11/10, p.132)

“Despite their growing popularity, there is little information available about how well QRISs work. A logic model presented in this report posits a clear path to improved provider quality and better child outcomes, but it is largely untested. We do not know how well QRISs measure what they purport to measure, whether parents pay attention to ratings in selecting care, whether providers that participate in QRISs actually improve the quality of the care they provide, or whether children benefit from the improved care they are receiving as their provider receives quality-improvement support.” (Zellman, et al, Assessing the Validity of the Qualistar Early Learning Quality Rating and Improvement System as a Tool for Improving Child-Care Quality, Rand Corporation, 2008) Continue reading »

Mar 19, 2011

Quotes and References Regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment


“The total percentage [3-10% for 2009] of students rated on average as not yet showing proficiency in each of the five developmental domains has remained consistent throughout the seven years of the study.” – 2009 Readiness Study Report, MDE, April 2010, p. 13

“The advocates sponsoring these ads base their claims on some early learning studies done by the Minnesota Education Department. But those studies did not draw dividing lines between children at different levels of development. They did not brand some students ready or not ready for kindergarten. The Education Department studies do show that between 2 percent and 11 percent of children do not yet demonstrate some skills or behaviors they need for success in school. Another group, about half, are in the process of acquiring those skills. They should succeed in schools that offer solid academic programs. The rest show full proficiency.  If the claims of the advertising campaign were true, it would certainly show up three years later in the third-grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results for reading and math ability. In fact, in 2004, 74 percent of Minnesota third-graders achieved proficient scores in the reading assessment; 71 percent were proficient or better in math. Some of those successful students must have been in the group not fully prepared for kindergarten. – Commissioner Alice Seagren, Pioneer Press, February 5, 2006, emphasis added


“Because children develop and grow along a continuum with great variability, the goal of these studies is to assess children s proficiency within and across these developmental domains and not establish whether or not children are ready for school with the use of a composite ready or not ready score. Young children develop rapidly and at varying rates across the domains, and an early, definitive determination of readiness can have unintended negative consequences” – 2006, Readiness Study Report, MDE, p.7,  emphasis added


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